London - Ladywell Fields
Ladywell Road : SE13 7HP
London - Ladywell Fields : Map credit National Library of Scotland London - Ladywell Fields : Image credit Lewisham Borough Photos Ladywell Fields was close to Ladywell station, on the banks of the river Ravensbourne. The fields were used by Ravensbourne Athletic Club from around 1870.

Ravensbourne AC was set up and funded by Sir Frederick Cook, who was a wholesale clothing trader and the 3rd richest man in England. Ravensbourne AC was a private club, for the employees of Cook's company.

The first Ravensbourne sports were held in 1871 at Ladywell and on August 12th 1876, a two miles open bicycle handicap race was included in the sports. The sports were held on grass on a 352 yards, roped off track and there were around 2,000 specgtators. Some of the club sports events were for employees and some were open.

The club only wanted ‘gentleman amateurs' to race in their events and advertised that entries were restricted to "members of amateur athletic, cricket, rowing, football, and bicycle clubs, but the committee reserve to themselves the right to refuse any entry." Their race entry fee of 2s 6d was probably set to exclude the working man from entering.

The annual Ravensbourne AC sports were probably the only event of note to be held at Ladywell each year. At the 1878 sports, HL Cortis** of the Wanderers, easily won the two miles open handicap off scratch. The ground was reported to be in bad condition in parts. Cortes returned in 1880 to win again, this time over one mile. Entries for the bicycle race were good, twenty riders competed in 1881, requiring three heats.

On August 19th 1882, the sports were held on the cricket ground. It is likely that the ground had problems with flooding, as it was very close to the river Ravensbourne.

The Ravensbourne AC sports moved to Stamford Bridge in 1883 and after that, there seemed to be no more bicycle racing at Ladywell, except for an isolated Jubilee sports meeting in 1950.

** HL Cortis was a medical student and a member of the Wanderers Bicycle Club, he had a short but brilliant career as a professional bicyclist, being one of the best riders in the country. In the four years that he rode, he won National Championships, was the fastest rider in the world over 1 mile and broke the world hour record four times, eventually achieving over 20 miles in the hour. Cortis must have been tall as he rode a very large wheeled ordinary, which was pictured when he was featured on the Players cigarette card cycling series. Cortis emigrated to Australia in 1883 to pursue his career as a doctor and he died there on 28th December 1885 aged only 28.

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Photos : Lewisham Borough Photos
Maps    : National Library of Scotland